FAIRBANKS – The Kenai River Brown Bears made a little history Thursday night at the Big Dipper Ice Arena, thanks to a little help from a former Fairbanks Ice Dog.
The Brown Bears acquired Johan Skinnars from the Ice Dogs in a three-way trade earlier this season and Skinnars made a perfect pass that set up the game-winning goal by Jesse Ramsey, giving Kenai River its first win in Fairbanks since the Brown Bears were founded three years ago.
\”This is a really big deal for us because we\’ve never won here before,\” Ramsey said after the Brown Bears finished celebrating their 3-2 victory that silenced a crowd of 1,750 spectators.
Ramsey broke free up the left side, took a perfect feed from Skinnars then rifled a backhand over Ice Dogs goalie Mike Taffe\’s left shoulder for the game-winner with 1:51 remaining in the third period.
\”We knew the game wasn\’t done because we\’ve had a lot of trouble finishing and they\’ve come back to take it from us every time,\” Ramsey said. \”I think we\’re on a good track now.\”
Kenai coach Oliver David didn\’t let the excitement of his team\’s first win in Fairbanks get the best of him.
\”I don\’t want to jump ahead here because we\’ve still got two games to play, but secretly I\’m pretty pleased and I know there are quite a few people back home who are pretty happy right now,\” David said.
\”They (Fairbanks) had plenty of chances tonight,\” he added. \”Our goaltender made some good saves and we got some bounces that went our way. We\’ll be tested in the next two games.\”
The Ice Dogs (24-13-1) and Brown Bears (8-26-2) will lock horns again at 7:30 tonight and Saturday night at the Big Dipper.
Ice Dogs coach Josh Hauge gave all the credit to Kenai for executing its game plan.
\”I\’ve got to give them credit for sticking with their game plan,\” Hauge said. \”They took away what we wanted to do tonight and we started to do stuff on our own and when we do that we\’re not going to win very many hockey games.\”
After Ramsey netted the game-winner, the Ice Dogs pulled Taffe for an extra attacker with 1:15 left in the game. Fairbanks kept the puck in the Kenai zone for most of that time, but the Brown Bears only allowed the puck to get through to goalie Dainis Vasiljevs on one occasion, and he came up with the save.
\”They don\’t have a lot of top-end talent, but they are all good hockey players and they work hard together as a team,\” Hauge said. \”If you don\’t bring your best effort against them, you\’re going to be in for a long night.\”
Vasiljevs came up with 34 saves on the night, while Taffe was credited with stopping 25 shots in only his third loss of the season.
Each team scored once in the first period and the second period was scoreless although the Ice Dogs outshot the Brown Bears 15-5.
\”We had a ton of chances in the second period and just didn\’t finish,\” Hauge said.
Kyle Politz got the scoring started on Thursday night when he lit the lamp with a power-play goal at 4:13 of the first period off an assist from Mark Pustin. The Brown Bears answered when Andrew Herbert stripped the puck from an Ice Dogs defenseman in the slot and whipped it past Taffe with just 6.7 seconds remaining in the period.
Kenai River took a 2-1 lead at 1:18 of the second Doug Beck\’s unassisted goal. Fairbanks tied it up a little more than three minutes later on a goal by Pustin with assists to Aaron McGill and Sean O\’Rourke at 4:31.
There were only six penalties in the game, two in each period. The Ice Dogs went 1 for 4 on the power play and Kenai River was 0 for 2.
Contact sports editor Bob Eley at 459-7581.